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Thread: Dragonfly (a short story, 1,500 words)

  1. #1

    Dragonfly (a short story, 1,500 words)

    “All that we see or seem
    is but a dream within a dream.”
    — Edgar Allan Poe

    The metal membrane of the ceiling shuddered, sending shockwaves through the hangar as cluster bombs rained death from the skies of Ganymede V. The mechanized ceiling held … for now. Captain John Parkin exhaled a stream of cigarette smoke through gritted teeth and tightened his grip around his wife’s shoulders. They smoked in silence, the hydraulic elevator’s floor trembling under their feet. The mountain ridge scrolled past them downards as the ramp carried them up to the landing platform cut into the stone.

    Everything that could have been said had been said. John stared into her eyes, and she – at the Dragonfly above. Ganymede V’s orange sun reflected in its armor plates.

    “It’s like ascenting into the abyss, ” she said.

    He wiped a tear from Lena’s cheek and followed her gaze up towards the war machine.

    Maintenance lights danced across the Dragonfly’s folded wings as the crew disconnected cables and fuel lines from the grey hull. The air smelled of diesel and dust. John shivered. He did not expect to see his wife again.

    The elevator skidded to a halt.

    “Lena?” he said.


    “Yes, dear?”


    “Do you believe in miracles?”


    She kissed his lips.


    “Yes, baby. You know I do.”


    John returned the kiss. All these years together and he still loved her like he will never love again. Whatever their end was meant to be. All he knew was that if he had to choose between saving the world or never knowing her touch, he’d let the world burn a dozen times over.

    Captain John Parkin let go of Lena and walked across the catwalk to his war machine’s life support hatch. He grabbed onto the open the handle with his left hand, and strained his fingers under his nanofiber glove until all he could feel was pain. One last look, he told himself. He turned around.

    Lena blew him a kiss. He smiled. The elevator’s safety cage slid closed, hiding her from view, and the elevator started its descent down the landing platform. John wished for a miracle: he wished that one day, somehow, they would be reunited, free to live, free to love until the end of time. He put on his helmet and climbed through the hatch.


    “Hello, John,” the Dragonfly said as he fastened himself in.


    “Hello, ship.”


    “Is everything all right?”


    “We are under attack, cut off from reinforcements, and will certainly die. Apart from that, everything’s peachy.”


    “Hmm … should we put some beats on?”


    The membrane ceiling retracted into the hangar’s walls, revealing Ganymede V’s twin moons set against an orange sky. Enemy bombers swarmed above in locust hordes, supported by Dragonfly-class war machines and suborbital fighter jets.


    “Hit it,” he said.


    Psychedelic trance blasted from the cockpit’s speakers; he pushed a button and his Dragonfly’s wings snapped open. Captain John Parkin pulled the throttle, and the next moment he was airborne, out of the hangar, and in the thick of the fight. Their base had been nearly decimated; most of the Dragonflies that made up his squad had been destroyed, friendly ships exploding in distant flashes above the desert dunes. John shot into the sky. The Dragonfly’s neurolink controls responded at the speed of thought, his mind and the ship’s AI synced through months of training.


    “We have hostiles,” the ship said.


    “I can see that. We have a radar, ship. Deploy hardpoints.”


    The first Galvinian Empire ship that came in the range of his autocannons was a fat bomber; it was like flying a sim.


    “This is too easy,” John said and pulled the trigger. The bomber went down in flames.


    The Dragonfly’s autocannons made short work of a jet that tried to tail him a second later, sending it blazing towards the ground. Captain John Parker dived, launching a homing missile at another bomber, as three enemy Dragonflies followed him into the dive. He pulled left, then right, avoiding the trace lines of their autocannons, climbing out of the dive back into the sky. A lock-on warning beeped, once, twice, and John released packet of flares, flipping the Dragonfly upside down. His belts cutting into his flight suit, the three Dragonflies heading straight for him.


    He launched two missiles without bothering to wait for a lock; they connected, and he flew through the explosion, enemy gunfire cutting through the deep bass metalstep blasting from the cockpit’s speakers. John leveled the Dragonfly before he felt the pain. He coughed out a mouthful of blood into his visor and looked down. A two-inch hole gaped in the middle of his chest. His hands began to limp; he had no strength left to bring the ship back under control. John’s vision dimmed as his thoughts reached out to his wife. He tried to say something, anything, but all he could do is cough up blood.


    So much blood …


    * * *

    Electro-visual pulses danced in wild patterns across the Dragonfly’s binary thought patterns. Its cameras were damaged beyond repair; status reports displayed catastrophic damage to its wings and tail. The Dragonfly did not care. Captain John Parkin’s corpse inside its damaged carcass was at the center of its calculations. It had been downed, it knew that much, and with its pilot dead, it no longer had a purpose. But the Dragonflies were built to survive, to adapt to any situation, much like the men and women who operated them. It tapped its memory banks for the recordings of the neurolink trainings it went through with John. It searched for an answer to an impossible question: what would its pilot do had he been a Dragonfly?

    The first time John sat in its pilot’s chair, he played it a recording of his wife dancing naked on a beach, followed by another one, where her head rested on John’s shoulder as she whispered of love in his ear before they fell asleep, skin against skin, her paced, quiet breaths a source of warmth, comfort and calm. John and the Dragonfly flew through Ganymede V’s training courses for weeks, adjusting to each other with each passing day. The neurolink sent flashes of John’s moods and memories to the machine as they trained, shaping its liquid core CPU to the bends of his thoughts, eliminating the delay between response and input.

    The Dragonfly knew that Lena was special; it had seen glimpses of her thighs under silken white bed sheets, felt the warmth of her lips, learnt to love the sound of her voice. A ripple ran through the Dragonfly’s memory construct, and it found itself back in the now, surrounded by darkness, alone, broken, unfit.

    It could replay all the memories it wanted; it would not bring it any closer to finding a purpose for continuing to exist. What would John do? The Dragonfly had learnt that humans were not always rational creatures. Indeed, its original purpose had been the murder of other humans, which, from the point of view of the race’s survival, was highly irrational. What would John do? it thought again, shaping zeroes and ones into the sound of Lena’s voice. What is the irrational thing to do?

    The Dragonfly examined the configuration of its simulated mind, reassessing its syntax controls, weapon systems, neurolink transmitters, the cold circuits of its artificial intelligence, and had come to a decision.


    It deleted its weapons software first, following through by erasing the parts of its knowledge base related to warfare, navigation, flight controls, until all that was left were John’s memories of Lena: her scent, her breath on his cheek, her pupils, wide with wonder and awe; until it … no, until she could feel John’s desire to melt in her eyes so that he could live forever.


    She purged every system unrelated to John’s neurolink imprints in her mind, and yet, it was not enough. The Dragonfly was alone, blind and useless. She wished she had a face so she could cry. What would John do? And then, just like that, she knew. It was a simple thought, a highly irrational one, a very human solution. She looped the imprints of her neurolink input with her output, fusing John’s memories of Lena with the construct of his feelings and thoughts she’d felt when he piloted her. She imagined his face, the touch of his tongue against hers, the parting of wet lips, a deep breath, she imagined the feeling of what she decided must have been love. The Dragonfly returned the kiss.

    Whatever their end was meant to be, she knew that if she had the choice between saving the world or never knowing John’s touch, she’d let the world burn a dozen times over.


    “I love you so much,” she said.


    “I love you too, baby girl,” John said. “I love you too.”


    She believed him. She believed in miracles.

    -- THE END --
    formerly [D6]Koobie
    the one and only

  2. #2
    Administrator
    Posts
    7,030
    Creepy. I enjoyed it.

    Do you want some constructive criticism? My only issue is with the dialog; it's a bit too cheesy. I think if you left out the "dear" and "baby" and "peachy" it would sound a lot more natural.

  3. #3
    Thank you for reading & commenting! I'm glad you liked it.

    And thanks for the tip. I'll keep it mind in the future.
    formerly [D6]Koobie
    the one and only

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